Now that the final NBA game of the 2015-16 season has been played, it’s time for the soap opera that is the NBA offseason to begin.
Everyone knows at this point that LeBron James carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to its first ever NBA championship – evident by the goo-gobs of folks that reportedly watched the Finals – and how he accomplished his goal of winning a title for his home state, which had been championship-deprived for 52 years.
Much ado was made – a lot of it coming from James himself in his penned letter announcing his intention to rejoin the Cavaliers two years ago – on how he wanted to “go back home” and win one for “the Land” (short for Cleveland).
It sounded good and it made everyone in Ohio giddy, knowing that their native son was coming back and going to deliver them a title. But up until Sunday’s thrilling game seven win, Cleveland had been devoid of a professional sports title for more than half a century.
Call it far-fetched, but cynical conventional wisdom would make one believe that LeBron – even in all his basketball greatness – saying that he’d be going back to Ohio to win a title really meant that he was verbally agreeing to an unofficial lifetime contract with the franchise and the city because – plainly, they never win in Ohio.
Well, they won.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith kicked off the drama by dropping this grenade on the country Monday morning:
“From what I’ve been told, the Lakers and Heat are possibilities as a destination for LeBron James this summer,” Smith said on the Mike & Mike Morning Show.
The man just won his third NBA championship in seven tries, stuffed the stat sheets to historical proportions, witnessed the coming-out party of teammate Kyrie Irving as one of the top 10 players in the league and actually accomplished his lifelong goal of bringing a title to his hometown and now he’s going to leave?
Yeah, one could see how that happens.
“No one should want to leave after they just captured a crown…nobody should want to leave Cleveland, everybody should want to stay and defend their crown,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take later Monday morning.
“You’re hearing about Miami and LA – as in the Lakers – as possible landing spots for LeBron. Because LeBron, obviously, was never going to leave until he helped deliver a championship to the city of Cleveland. But once that was done, it is believed that departing is something that he’ll entertain.”
Miami was a playoff team and was one game – and possibly one Hassan Whiteside injury – away from actually facing James and his Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals.
Dwyane Wade, who attended Sunday’s game seven in Oakland in support of LeBron, turned back the proverbial clock during the playoffs and put on some vintage “Flash” performances.
And, James has said publicly that he’d like to play with his friends: Wade, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony one day.
Still, the Heat have their own role to play in the NBA offseason drama. Wade is a free agent and will be seeking near-max, if not max contract dollars this summer. The shot-blocking savant Whiteside will be courted by just about every team with money to spend. Also, Chris Bosh’s health is still a question mark – and he’s still owed somewhere in the $75 million range.
And it was reported Sunday night and Monday morning that James said he was motivated by some stinging words from someone in Miami.
“People in Miami believe that they have a shot at LeBron James returning. There’s some clean up duty that Pat Riley has to make up for because obviously he felt a certain way about LeBron’s departure…but there are people in Miami who believe they have a shot at getting LeBron to return to South Beach,” Smith went on to say on ESPN.
“It would be hard-pressed for me to imagine him leaving Cleveland at this point in time, but it was almost impossible for me to imagine that he would leave South Beach a couple of years ago – but he did that.”
Then there’s Los Angeles.
The Lakers are no longer under “Mamba Rule” and are looking for the next great…anything.
Still, LA offers the allure of Hollywood and the illustrious franchise history. Not to mention, the Lakers own the No. 2 overall in this year’s draft, have the No. 2 pick from last year’s draft in the form of guard D’Angelo Russell, and buckets of cap space.
However, the bottom line of it all is that no one knows what LeBron will do next.
Smith admitted that he doesn’t.
“I think it’s very, very possible that he could end up departing,” Smith said Monday. “But again, I don’t know – I have no idea. I’m just telling you what I heard.”
James has always been guarded and very conscious as to prop and present himself in the best light possible.
And the general public will be forced to sit back and watch the soap opera unfold while LeBron already knows which socks he’ll wear during his two-hour-long, nationally televised retirement special in 2020.
Buckle up folks.